Late last month, Harbor Commissioner Richard Marks wrote a LoCO op-ed calling on the county to think about easing up development restrictions on industrial development around the bay. Marks argued that too much land is zoned for “coastal-dependent industrial business.” You can’t currently do business in those zones — at least according to the strict letter of the law — unless your business is somehow dependent on the sea.

The problem is that there aren’t very many sea-dependent businesses knocking down the door to rent such land, Marks says. And so a great deal of former industrial land lies fallow, despite the fact that many manufacturers would like to locate there. They simply can’t demonstrate a dependence on the ocean.

Well, it seems as though the county is listening. They’ve come up with a draft amendment to county code that would allow non-seafaring businesses to set up shop in coastal-dependent industrial land in King Salmon and Fields Landing and on the Samoa Peninsula, at least on an “interim” basis. County planners will hold a public workshop on the proposal Tuesday evening.

The land we’re talking about is shaded yellow in the map below:

If the county’s first-draft changes to the zoning go through, other manufacturers could be given five-year “interim permits” to conduct business on the bay, which will presumably be renewable if no genuinely coastal-dependent operations are clamoring for the site.

This is the first step in a long process. Even if county government opts to move forward, the land in question is covered by the county’s local coastal program, which means that the California Coastal Commission will have to sign off.

“I’m happy that the process is moving forward,” Marks told the Outpost this morning. “It’s moving forward in the face of government, which is too slow for me.”

Read the currently proposed changes to the county’s zoning ordinance at this link. The workshop will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 23, from 6 to 7 p.m., at the Wharfinger Building. Full press release from the county follows:

Humboldt County is considering changes to the Humboldt Bay Area Plan and Coastal Zoning Regulations (“amendment”) that would provide more flexibility in the uses allowed in the Industrial/Coastal-Dependent (MC) zone district. A public workshop to discuss these proposed changes will be held on Tuesday, Feb 23 from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka.


The principal use of the MC zone district is for coastal-dependent industrial uses that require access to a maintained navigable channel in order to function. Secondary or conditional uses also require channel access or are limited to coastal-related industrial uses.

Planning for coastal-dependent industrial uses was done in the 1970’s, when demand for land to accommodate these types of uses was much higher than it is today. Due to the current low demand for coastal-dependent industrial uses and the disproportionally large amount of vacant or underutilized MC zoned land around Humboldt Bay, the county is considering allowing certain noncoastal-dependent industrial uses in the MC zone district on an interim basis (“interim uses”). The goal of this proposed amendment is to allow for these interim uses while at the same time protecting the current and long-term use of MC zoned land for coastal-dependent industrial use.

Summary of Proposed Changes

 You can view the full text of the proposed changes to allow interim uses in the MC zone district on our website and at the Humboldt County Planning Department at 3015 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501.

Following is a summary of some key elements of this proposed amendment:

Interim uses proposed in the MC zone district are certain uses allowed in the Light Industrial (ML) and Industrial General (MG) zone districts that are not otherwise allowed in the MC zone district.

All interim uses will require a conditional use permit and a coastal development permit with coinciding term lengths that normally cannot exceed 5 years; a term of up to 10 years may be considered under limited circumstances. The length of a permit term will be based on project and site-specific factors.

Permits cannot be extended, but instead new permits will be required in order for an interim use to continue past the permit expiration date. Upon permit expiration, the site must be returned to its original condition, or to a condition that would preserve or enhance the project site for future coastal-dependent industrial use. A plan for such restoration will be required as part of the application.

Interim uses will be encouraged to utilize existing improvements at the site, and any new improvements will need to preserve or enhance the site for future coastal-dependent industrial use, or be relocated after the interim use ends.

All members of the public are encouraged to attend the workshop.